The Financial Services Sector Must Not Become A Political Weapon

posted on March 22, 2020
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It is a wonderful, curious and spectacularly appropriate fact that the first part of Adam Smith’s groundbreaking treatise, Wealth of Nations, was published in 1776. Smith, as an Englishman, would have known all about the American Revolution, which began in 1775 and was solidified with our Declaration of Independence in 1776. In his book, Smith was arguing for individual rights in the marketplace just when Americans were revolting, in part, because the British were doing things like forcing the American colonists to export their commodities, such as tobacco, cotton and wool, to England and then forcing them to buy the products made from these goods back from England.

The American system of government—including protections for individual rights—established in our nation’s founding period rejected this kind of governmental interference in our marketplace. Certainly, the American financial system was evolving, but the belief that it should be nonpartisan, open and fair has always been considered fundamental.

This American ideal is now being questioned. Gun-control activists, who have been beaten in many state legislatures and at the federal level, thanks in no small part to your support for the NRA, have decided to get their way by pressuring financial companies into instituting gun-control policies.

This is a cancer inside our market economy. Legislatures are the places for such public policy debates. Courts can then check the legislatures based on the constitutionality of the laws passed. When legal industries are financially punished simply because they are not politically correct enough for some woke faction, for example, then our open and fair marketplace becomes something less. This then presents the possibility of ever more activism punishing lawful businesses simply because they might or might not support a certain political party.

As Smith articulated, the enduring benefit of the free-market economy is that it leaves choices to individuals. Government should simply be a referee in this system.

Former President Barack Obama didn’t see it this way. Obama attempted to turn this free marketplace into something political via his administration’s “Operation Choke Point.” Politicians in states like New York, Connecticut and California have since tried, or are trying, to use government institutions for the same purpose. If it isn’t stopped, this political manipulation of what should be a fair system will grow and harm America’s very core.

Private banks and other financial institutions, of course, are and should be free to loan to whatever company or sector of the economy they choose, as long as they are working with law-abiding businesses. But, that said, for the market to remain fair and robust, consumers need to know about these policies so they can push back by putting their money elsewhere if they so choose. In this way, even corporate activists can be checked by the marketplace.

It is, after all, another wonderful, curious and spectacularly appropriate fact that Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was also first published in 1776. Rome fell for many reasons, but one was an increasingly corrupt bureaucracy that was twisting its financial system to benefit the politically favored.

If this American experiment is to last, it must stay open, free and forever checked by the rights of the individual.


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